TALLINN – Estonian MEP Urmas Paet said that the format of the summit between China and countries of Central and Eastern Europe that took place in Dubrovnik on Friday is splitting the European Union.
"This summit between 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and China, or the so-called 16+1, is a very weird composition that weakens the joint foreign and security policy of the European Union," Paet wrote on social media. "Out of 28 EU countries, it includes 11 Central and Eastern European countries, among them Estonia. The rest are non-EU countries from the Balkan. Therefore, placing the 16 under a common denominator is already weird, but China is, of course, interested in undermining the European Union," he added.
"The EU must do business with China as a whole, considering China's fast growing influence and ambition, which is not only limited to economy. China is also increasingly active in the direction of Europe in the political and security spheres," Paet said. "These 11 EU countries and Estonia among them should give up this format drawn up and dictated by China and do business based on the EU as a whole as well as on the joint foreign and security policy of the European Union," he added.
"Obviously Estonia, for example, would not like it if some other composition of EU countries, which excluded Estonia, met with China," Paet said. "This activity by China is geared toward the internal division of the European Union and should not be allowed to develop further," he added.
The 16+1 meeting in Dubrovnik was also attended by Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, who stressed that it is important in the economic relationship between Europe and China to guarantee equal opportunities to entrepreneurs of both regions, respect their intellectual property, as well as monitor cyber security in the fast-developing world of digital connections and e-commerce.
"The relationship between China and Europe is constantly growing closer. This provides some great opportunities for Estonian entrepreneurs. I am very glad to see Eesti Energia, Magnetic MRO, and PRFoods, among others, participate at the economic forum in Dubrovnik. It is important to both Estonia and Europe that our enterprises have better opportunities to compete on the Chinese market and that our business activities would have to face fewer unfounded restrictions," Ratas said.